This Land [30]

The long, harsh winter was finally over.

She realised it one crisp day in May, when she felt the warm sun on her bare arms. Her first roses were blooming. Bright, peachy yellow ones. And their sweet lemony scent danced on the breeze and filled her with such joy. Enough to go running barefoot in the gardens, flinging her hair free, the joy of the glorious sun coursing through every vein in her body.

She knew what she would do now.

She knew with all the conviction in the world.

She would go to the train station, and wait on the platform for his train to draw in. She would step forward, and immediately tell him yes.

No, she would hand him a letter.

No, no. That would be silly. She already wrote him a letter. She would just wait for him. And he would know. Why should he not know? He would know!

She raced back indoors, drawing her shawl over her shoulders in the sudden chill that hung around the back door.

‘Letter for you Laura,’ Phyllis called from the drawing room. Phyllis was visiting for the week. She debated whether to go in and get it or not.

‘Who is it from?’ she stood in the doorway, her left foot tapping impatiently on the floor.

‘Well,’ Phyllis peered at the handwriting, ‘it looks like Mary’s handwriting actually. It came through this morning. Ethel collected the letters from the post office.’

‘Oh. Mary!’ Laura darted across the room and snatched the letter from her younger sister’s hand. She ripped it open and hurried out of the drawing room, with Phyllis looking after her as though she had sprouted another head.

‘Why the rush!?’ Phyllis called anxiously, getting out of her chair.

‘I am meeting .. I am going to the train station,’ Laura threw over her shoulder, before taking the stairs two steps at a time. She dropped the envelope on the floor and shook the letter out, reading as she hurried into her room and shut the door behind her.

Dearest Laura,

Your letter was beautiful. I do miss you so. We have settled in nicely by the sea. John’s practice is marvellous. And I am doing so well with so much fresh air to cleanse my lungs. They have accepted my application at the College and I have my first class on the first week of June. It’s only a small class; I shall be teaching the summer students before they move me onto something more permanent. They say it’s a probationary period. I am not at all nervous, I tell you. We are both looking forward to your visit in August. I have the most wonderful room here for you. It looks right over the sea and the window is as tall as I am! Every night when the days are clear I watch the sunset and I think how you would adore this darling little room. You would feel right at home here. And come September, when our number shall increase by one… I feel giddy thinking about it!

Now for the real reason I write to you so hurriedly, Laura. Tom refuses to tell you, so I must do it myself and warn you before he arrives, lest you have the shock of your life. He is engaged to be married, my love. To Rosaline. Remember Rosaline? You got on really well with her at the Winter dance when you came to visit us at Leighton. He is bringing her and her mother back with him for the summer. Says he wants to give them the tour of the town. I expect he wants to show them the old haunts. Rosaline tells me he tells her about your roses and she is keen to see them. I write only to let you know, so you don’t keel over or anything silly like that.

With all my ferocious love,

Mary

She finished reading the letter and her legs were frozen in place. A soft knock on the bedroom door, and when she didn’t respond, Phyllis pushed it open and peered around.

Laura’s face was pale.

‘So you know,’ Phyllis’s voice was gentle as she came into the room and took her sister into her arms.

Laura shook herself free, tossing her head.

‘Know what?’ she snapped, folding the letter and putting it away into her drawer.

‘About Tom?’

‘Oh! Yes, of course I know. Why are you being so motherly all of a sudden?’ she said curtly, pulling on her coat.

‘Laura, come now, don’t…’

‘I’m going for a walk, Phyllis. Please. Allow me to get dressed in peace.’

She pushed past her sister, seizing her shawl and wrapping it around her neck. She picked her hat up and stalked out.

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